My ADHD: What Does it Feel Like?

My brain is a tennis ball thrown recklessly into a bouncy castle when I’m off my medication. It bounces erratically around from thought to thought, action to action, reaction to reaction. It notices everything and logs nothing away permanently.

Let’s try an exercise so you can have a bit of experience with what I mean. On the first device, maybe your phone, turn on a podcast or audiobook. Put that in one corner of the room and set the volume to whatever you would like. On a second device, turn on music or the radio, putting it in a separate spot in the room, and set the volume to higher or lower than the first. On a third device, put on a TV show, and set it at a different volume, preferably slightly away from the first two. If it’s a nice day, open the windows so you can hear all of the random outdoor traffic noises and the occasional person shouting or bird chirping.

Now, with all of that on, and your brain trying to focus on each one of the noises or none of them, sit and try to write an email or read a book. It’s possible! It’s just really hard to do. That’s what it’s like to concentrate with ADHD: except, instead of a lot of external noise, it’s all internal thoughts and checklists and distractions. Distractions are both internal random thoughts, ideas or to-do lists, along with external colours, lights, things to read or unexpected movements.

There is no follow-through of thought. Your mind jumps from one to the other, like little men jumping from one runaway train to another. Speaking can be the same. I can say half of a sentence out loud, trail off, and think the rest of it while believing the other person heard the whole thing. Why? Because my mind is distracted.

Here is another example. Have you ever tried to plan a huge event like a wedding or family reunion or the like? Maybe you have had a big project to finish at work? Your brain is constantly ON because you have some big things to confirm but also a million little details that need to be done. If you’re doing it all yourself, your home may look chaotic: fabric swatches draped on a desk (or chairs) for dresses, magazines- with pages marked- piled on one corner of a desk or dining table, bags of favours to make and decor to put up closer to the day, and lists upon lists everywhere. You walk around talking to another person on the phone to confirm some detail while simultaneously remembering the other thing you need to pick up later and the item you need to add to that one list….. and now your brain is having trouble remembering each and your brain feels as chaotic as your house. That’s another example of ADHD and how it feels.

These are, of course, personal examples of how it feels in my life. I know that every person is a combination of so many factors it will be different for everyone. But this is why, when I’m unmedicated at least, my house looks like I’m in the middle of moving or Spring cleaning all of the time.

Last week, I ran out of my prescription, and I couldn’t get a renewal right away. I had no inside my brain voice, my mind decided we should think every semi-interesting thought out loud. I was also interrupting people more often because I was afraid I would forget what I needed to say. Even when I wasn’t interrupting or interrupted, I would lose my train of thought. There were a lot of sentences like, “Hey, don’t let me forget….oh I forgot what it was!” or “The thing is, you really should…..” and I wouldn’t say what they “really should” do.

Doing work was also a disaster. I took out my laptop to finish checking my email. When I picked it up to move towards me on the desk, I discovered a pile of paperwork underneath I should file! Well, I might as well do that first. I took the papers to the kitchen to sort by category on the dining table…..but found the dining table had a few things on it and needed to be wiped.

No problem! I’ll just do that. I quickly swiped the breakfast bowls off of the table and took them to the dishwasher. I filled it and wiped that counter before filling the sink to wash the pots. While I waited for the sink to fill, I wiped the counters and remembered the table, so I wiped that off and let it dry. I piled dishes in the sink to soak and went back to the paperwork. I started to divide them into categories so they would be easier to file once I was downstairs. But there was one that was page 2/2. Where was page 1? Oh! probably in the living room!

I went back to the living room and looked for the paper but didn’t see it. I sat at the desk so I could check its drawer and saw my laptop so I started to read my email. One of the emails had tips on laundry and I was reminded I needed to put things in the dryer! This went on all day, in a “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” fashion. With a lot of random lost times because I got lost in a daydream.

On that day, I started all of those tasks in the morning and when my husband was done work at around five pm, there were all of the tasks, started to 3/4s of the way done, but NONE of them finished. There is a lot of “oh sorry” and “let me get that outta your way” and “I meant to come back and finish that” explanations on those days.

For myself, I MUCH prefer being medicated, even though it takes awhile to find the right one and a lot of fiddling to find the right dose. I’ve tried all of the natural remedies and they did nothing. Like using a pinhole camera to see better instead of wearing glasses amount of nothing.

I hope this explains what it’s like to be me with ADHD. My ADHD, unresolved, also seems to directly link to my OCD and crippling anxiety. Do you have ADHD? What’s it like for you?

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